This Valentine's Day, be sure to recognize your caregivers by saying thank you.
Ah, Valentine’s Day! With its coming, I’m reminded of my childhood … classroom Valentine’s Day parties and the exchange of cards declaring undying love.
Perhaps the cruelest joke of all was when I received a card signed, “Guess who?” I was convinced it came from the little neighborhood girl with the blond curls. I romanticized that she had pledged her life to me, only to find out that my mother was the author of that unfortunate message.
In keeping with the tradition of Valentine’s Day, I remembered to send a card to those I loved or appreciated like my parents, siblings and teachers. I thought this column would be the perfect vehicle to suggest we send a “valentine” to those on whom we depend … our caregivers.
I recently had a long conversation with the wife of a colleague whose spouse was, like me, a member of the disability community. It made me realize just how much these extraordinary individuals do for us on a daily basis and the sacrifices they make without complaining. Some of us depend on a family member such as a mother, father, brother or sister to lend a hand. These family members, for all intents and purposes, give up their time and everyday lives to dedicate a substantial amount of time to assure our needs are met and we enjoy our lives to their fullest.
Consider when the sacrifice starts and where the responsibility of “caregiver” begins. From our moment of injury, their lives become an emotional rollercoaster and they’re joined with us in a partnership. This involves helping to sustain as much of a near normal quality of life for their disabled companion as is possible.
Initially, they follow our progress through rehab, realizing what our capabilities initially are and then what is expected for the future and how they will play a part in fulfilling this task. Sound like a full-time job? You bet!
If these caregivers were gainfully employed at the time or perhaps involved in achieving a higher education … that automatically stops. Because of our needs, their needs become immersed in fulfilling their sense of duty and are no longer relevant.
Statistics show caregivers even tend to neglect their own healthcare because of their dedication to their disabled partner. The aches and pains they suffer every day become “part of the job” and just a reality of their role as a caregiver. Their disabled partner’s needs are more important than their own.
Another consideration is their non-existent social life. Often, the only occasion they leave the confines of the home is when we have a medical appointment or are meeting socially with others in the disability community. Medical appointments generally involve long periods of time in waiting rooms and conferences with medical personnel in which they are, from necessity, a participant.
During social activities, we congregate with our wheelchair friends while our caregiver, literally, stands by. I often become involved in conversation and forget my wife is standing with no place to sit. I overlook that she becomes tired. But she never complains because she says it’s “her job” to take care of my needs. I’ll bet you know someone like this as well.
So, this Valentine’s Day, let’s make it a recognition day. A day when you recognize those caregivers in your life. Make it a day to say “thank you” by presenting them with a card that expresses your appreciation for their sacrifice and their continuing care for your well-being.
To all you caregivers, whether a spouse, relative or paid attendant, thank you for making our lives meaningful and satisfying.
As usual, I close with a reminder to visit a veteran at a Veterans Affairs hospital or nursing home. Many Paralyzed Veterans of America chapters sponsor a campaign to deliver valentines to patients in these facilities. Check in your area to see if a program exists — and join in.
(Register or login to add comments.)